Monthly Archives: March 2013

The One Book Every Beer Nerd Should Own

The Oxford Companion to Beer book with Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen gueuze bottles

Last Christmas I received a number of great beer-related gifts, including a set of Spiegelau Beer Connoisseur glasses that I use all the time. But the gift that I’ve got the most from is The Oxford Companion to Beer. The book is an amazingly in-depth encyclopedia-like tome with information on just about everything you could ever want to know about beer. I consult it constantly, to clarify beer terminology, do research for posts on this blog and much more.

The Oxford Companion to Beer is edited by Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. But it’s composed of writings from more than 165 beer experts from more than 20 countries. And though some entries go into painstaking detail, the majority of the book is easy to read and understand. And it’s organized alphabetically so it’s easy to look up whatever beer, brewery, brewing method or any other term you’re interested in.

The book doesn’t come cheap, with a cover price of $65. But it’s worth the money, in my opinion, and you can find deals on The Oxford Companion to Beer online at sites like Amazon.com, which currently sells the hardcover version of the book for $38.40 plus shipping and the digital Kindle edition for just $19.24.

I highly recommend picking up a copy. I’ve read a number of books and articles on beer and brewing, but The Oxford Companion to Beer is by far my favorite.

UBN

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AB InBev’s Latest Monstrosity: Bud Light Lime ‘Straw-Ber-Rita’

Bud Light Straw-ber-ita can

One of the worst days of 2012 for me was a few days before Christmas, when my underage, college-going niece asked me to buy her and her two cheerleader friends a “30 rack of Bud Light Lime.”

I refused, of course. Not because I didn’t want to buy beer for a 19 year old and her giggly buddies—I’m a lowlife, after all. I refused because she used the term “30 rack of Bud Light Lime.”

Bud Light is relatively cheap. It’s not challenging. It’s low in alcohol so even amateur drunks can consume it for long periods of time. And it’s consistent, so you know what you’re getting every time you buy a “30 rack.” For these reasons and more, it’s incredibly popular.

But Bud Light is also boring. So AB InBev has to use lots of silly marketing techniques to keep young drinkers and people who don’t actually like beer interested. Techniques that include making beer that tastes like things that don’t taste like beer. Fruit juice, for example, and then putting it in brightly color cans and bottles of all shapes and sizes.

According to a tweet from CNBCBeerNews on Twitter, Bud Light Lime was the second most popular new alcohol release of 2012. I have no idea if this is true or what the number one new release was—probably something that tastes even less like beer than Bud Light Lime. But I know Bud Light Lime is hugely popular among college students, particularly female coeds. And I bet AB InBev’s brand new Bud Light Lime Straw-ber-rita, which is reportedly being released today, will be equally popular.

If you honestly like Bud Light Lime, man, you should drink it to your heart’s content and not care what anybody else thinks. To each his (or her) own. But I dread the day that I have I hear the term “30 rack of Bud Light Lime Straw-ber-rita.” I don’t even like writing it.

Fuck a Straw-ber-ita; drink a damn margarita is you want a beverage that tastes like one.

UBN

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Beer Porn: Bottles of Cantillon Zwanze 2013

Bottles of Cantillon Zwanze 2013 in Brussels Belgium

Last week, I posted about Brasserie Cantillon‘s 2014/2015 Zwanze beer, which will very likely be a spontaneously-fermented stout. I’ve been searching for details on the 2013 version of Cantillon’s Zwanze, an annual, limited-release beer that’s different each year, but I haven’t come up with anything. In fact, it seems as though Cantillon and its lead brewer Jean Van Roy are being somewhat secretive about the 2013 Zwanze beer.

The picture above comes from Twitter user Kyle Black (@kylefblack), and it was taken yesterday at the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, Belgium. The image shows bottles of 2013 Zwanze and 2013 gueuze. When Black asked about Zwanze 2013, the Cantillon staff would not share any details. That’s unfortunate, but I’m still glad to see this fine bit of beer porn. It was all but certain that Cantillon has a 2013 Zwanze in the works, and this image seems to confirm it. This Zwanze 2013 appears to have been bottled in October 2012. For more on Zwanze, check out my post from a 2012 Zwanze Day celebration.

Thanks again for sharing, Kyle.

UBN

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The Difference Between ‘Sour Beer’ and ‘Wild Beer’

Russian River Sour Ales

Russian River Brewing Co. makes some of my favorite sour ales

It took me quite some time to acquire a real taste for sour beer, but now that I have one, sour beers are pretty much all I want to drink—except for IPAs; I still love my hops. (Check out my lists of sour ales and Flemish red/brown ales for details on my favorite sours.)

In my quest to try every sour beer I can get my mitts on, I’ve encountered quite a few “wild ales,” some of which were sour and many that were not. I also read the word “Brettanomyces” or “Brett” a lot. Brett is a wild yeast strain used in many wild and sour ales.

At first, I assumed that sour beers and wild ales were one in the same, but after tasting many wild ales with Brett that were not at all sour, I did some research to determine the difference between the two.

First of all, there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer. But here’s what The Oxford Companion to Beer says on the subject:

“The development, largely by American craft brewers, of entirely new categories of beer [that use wild yeast and/or bacteria] during the past decade, has resulted in the need for a new nomenclature to describe them. This nomenclature is surely unsettled, but the two terms in general use are ‘sour beer’ and ‘wild beer.’ ‘Wild beer’ is generally used to describe any beer that displays earthy characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast strains, regardless of whether the beer is a light golden ale or a strong dark stout. If the brewer adds acidifying bacteria to the beer, it is termed a ‘sour beer.’ If both Brettanomyces character and bacterial acidity are in evidence, then the beer is generally deemed to fit both categories.”

So, to sum that up. Beers with funky, Brett character but no acidity from added bacteria are commonly referred to as “wild ales,” and they are not necessarily sour. If a brewer opts to add bacteria to a beer made with wild yeast the beer will take on an acidic, sour flavor. These beers are called sour beers. Wild ales can be sour, but not all of them are. The difference between the two is the addition of bacteria during the barrel aging process—the two most common bacteria used in the process are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

There you have it, wild beers are not necessarily sour beers; some just taste “funky” due to the wild yeast used during fermentation. And many sour beers, but not all, can be called wild, because they use wild yeast, as well.

UBN

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Dogfish ‘Randall Jr.’ Mini Fresh-Hopping Gadget Costs $20

Dogfish Head Randall Jr.

You may or may not have heard of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery‘s fresh-hopping contraption called Randall the Enamel Animal. The gadget basically lets you stream beer through a variety of different ingredients, including hops, spices, etc., to impart the flavors of those ingredients in the beer.

Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately, the full-size Randall the Enamel Animal is rather pricey at almost $300, and it’s really designed for commercial use in bars or other drinking establishments.

Dogfish also offers a Randall Jr. “Mini Enamel Animal” that lets individuals “randalize” their beers. Randall Jr. isn’t a new product, but it has been sold out in Dogfish’s online store for quite some time. Its latest release was also supposed to be in February,  but the new Randall Jrs. just went on sale this week. Randall Jr. is basically a thick plastic container that holds 16 ounces of brew. You fit a filtering screen on top of it once you add your beer and other ingredients, put another cap on to maintain carbonation, let the beer chill for a while and then pour the filtered beer into a drinking glass.

Dogfish Head Randall Jr.

You could certainly build your own Randall Jr. using a large glass or other container and a filter, but the Dogfish unit probably looks cooler than what you’ll come up with. And it’s not too pricey at $20.

Here’s the official Randall Jr. description from Dogfish:

“Our new Mini Enamel Animal will give you the power for off-centered infusions. Just twist off the top; add hops, spices, fruit or whatnot, fill with off-centered ale and savor the fruits of your creativity.

“The new super-thick Randall holds a whopping 16 ounces. Made of double-walled, BPA-free plastic, he’s a bold but sensitive guy, so please wash with a mild, non-scented soap, and by golly keep him out of the microwave or dishwasher!”

And here’s a video infomercial from Dogfish about Randall Jr.

Learn more about Randall Jr. or order one of your own via Dogfish’s online store.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: d.b.a. in New York City’s East Village

d.b.a. beer bar in New York City's East Village

Last week, while working in Manhattan, I stopped in for a quick beer at d.b.a, which is located in New York City’s East Village neighborhood. I visited around lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, and it was absolutely dead, so my experience probably isn’t representative of the typical d.b.a visit. But I got a good enough feel for the bar that I decided to write it up in my next Barfly’s View.

Two more d.b.a. bars exist, one in Brooklyn and one in New Orleans. The name d.b.a. stands for Doing Business As, which is the term the owners put on the licensing papers when first opening because they couldn’t decide on a name. They never did, and the d.b.a. designation stuck. (The bartender also told me he sometimes tells curious assholes like me that d.b.a. stands for “Don’t bother asking.”)

The outside of d.b.a. isn’t exactly welcoming. It looks like a dark old bodega or something. But I kind of like that, and shady facades have never kept me away from quality beer bars. d.b.a. is just that. The bar had about 15 drafts available, including a few local New York beers and some quality Belgian and German ales. One of my favorite things about d.b.a. is that it lists the dates the kegs were tapped, so you can tell which ones are the most fresh. That’s a nice gesture, and it shows the proprietors know the importance of fresh beer. The bar also has a beer engine that pours cask conditioned ales.

The taps at d.b.a. aren’t the main attraction, though—not for me, at least. It’s the bottle list that’s truly impressive. And it’s the quality of that list not the quantity of bottles. d.b.a. offers quite a few bottles, but I saw a dozen or so very interesting limited release bottles from breweries like Fantome and The Proef, and I drank a bottle of Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, which is one of my favorite krieks.

Overall, I was impressed with the beer selection at d.b.a., but I do have one notable complaint: The list of beers on its website is completely inconsistent with the beers that are actually available. For example, the d.b.a. website says it currently offers a number of different Cantillon lambics, and that’s the reason I walked from Midtown to the East Village in the first place. But I was disappointed to find that the bar didn’t have a single one.

Inside d.b.a. beer bar in New York City's East Village

The bartender was friendly, unassuming and willing to humor me by answering a bunch of what must have seemed like random questions for this post. He didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about beer, though. For example, the dude didn’t even recognize the name Cantillon when I asked him about the lambics listed on the bar’s website, which is a bit of sin for a bar that prides itself on serving quality Belgain brews.

The bar doesn’t serve food, only beer and liquor.

As for the atmosphere, d.b.a. is fairly dingy, with dinged-up wooded stool and tables that clearly show their age. But it’s not dirty. New Orleans Saints paraphernalia can be found on the walls in some place, probably as a nod to d.b.a.’s Big-Easy-based sister bar. A small outside seating area can be found behind the barroom, but it was far too cold when I visited for it to be open, and the bar was empty anyway.

Despite New York City regulations against it, d.b.a. is also somewhat animal friendly. Patrons can bring dogs in, as long as they’re kept on leases, and you may even spot a bold feline named Maggie mingling with locals on occasion.

I’ve only visited a handful of New York City beer bars, and The Ginger Man is still probably my favorite. But d.b.a. is located in a cooler location with far fewer tourists, and its bottle list makes it a worthy destination for any beer nerd wandering Manhattan in search of quality craft brew.

Learn more about d.b.a. on its website, DrinkGoodStuff.com.

UBN

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Got a Case of Bad Nerves? Get a Case of Good Beer

Cases of Heady Topper IPA

“There is nothing for a case of nerves like a case of beer.” – Joan Goldstein

I have no idea who Ms. Goldstein is, and Google wasn’t particularly helpful in finding out. But I like her style. I don’t totally agree with this quote, and I can think of a few other chemical and pharmaceutical fixes for ragged nerves that may top beer. But personally, I prefer the beer—especially if it’s Heady Topper. On a snowy Tuesday evening after a long day of alternating between shoveling and sitting in front of a computer monitor, I really need a beer to calm my nerves. Or 24 of them.

UBN

Image via Reddit

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The Award for Worst Beer Names at 2013 Extreme Beer Fest Goes to…

Short's Brewing Co. booth at 2013 Extreme Beer Fest EBF

Short’s Brewing Co. booth at EBF 2013

Short’s Brewing Co. of Bellaire, Michigan! Congrats Shorts on having the strangest and most unappealing names for beers at this year’s Extreme Beer Fest (EBF) in Boston!

Craft brewers are typically laidback, quirky types. The names they give their beers are frequently creative, unique, amusing and sometimes even offensive.  Many of the names are designed to reflect qualities of the beers and help make drinkers remember them. Others are just fucking odd.

I attended the 2013 EBF last weekend, and I had almost as much fun reading all the beer names as I did drinking the brews. (Check out some scenes from this year’s EBF here.) Some of my favorite names: Evil Twin’s Justin Blåbær, a Berliner Wiessebier with blueberries (blåbær is the Danish word for blueberry); The Alchemist’s fantastic Heady Topper double IPA (love me some Heady); Allagash’s De Molen Smoke & Beards tripel; The Bruery’s Sour in the Rye sour ale; and Firestone Walker’s FW Barrelworks Wild Weisse Berliner Weissbier.

But one particular brewery’s names caught my eye at EBF—for all the wrong reasons. Short’s Brewing offered more different beers than any other brewery at EBF, and about half of them sported names that immediately turned me off. In fact, I didn’t try a single one of Short’s beers.

There was Sweet Taters, an American Brown Ale; Stray Cat Street Fighting for the Devil, an old ale; Bloody Beer, a fruit/vegetable beer; Short’s Keylime Pie and, quite possibly the worst name for a beer I have ever heard: Ben’s Asthma, a Russian imperial stout.

Before you drop a comment to let me know what an asshole I am for putting Short’s on the spot, I want to clarify two things: 1) I am well aware that I am an asshole; and 2) this post is really meant in jest. I have nothing against Short’s or its beers. I just don’t like the names. I didn’t skip Short’s beers because I don’t like their names. I skipped them because I’ve already tried most of them. Okay, I haven’t tried Ben’s Asthma, but I honestly have no desire to drink a beer named after a breathing condition.

Ribbing aside, Short’s makes some quality brew. I’m particularly fond of its Huma Lupa Licious IPA, and it’s unique The Soft Parade strong ale with a shitload of berries is also worth a try if that’s your thing.

UBN

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Scenes from Extreme Beer Fest (EBF) 2013 in Boston

I just walked through the doors of Boston’s Cyclorama, the location of the 2013 Extreme Beer Fest (EBF), presented by Beer Advocate and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. EBF was supposed to be held in Boston a month ago, but a major snow storm hit the Northeast and crippled the city for days, leading to the cancellation and eventual rescheduling of the festival. Mother Nature can’t keep us beer nerds down, and we’re here today to try as many wacky, wild and challenging new beers as we can in three and a half hours. I don’t think I’ll have too much more time to write, but I thought I’d share some scenes from this year’s EBF. I’ll be updating this post throughout the event with images so check back often if you want to see what I see.

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Craft beer enthusiasts mill about before the EBF evening session

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The EBF line rapidly forming 45 minutes before doors open

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The Dogfish stand at EBF

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Allagash stand at EBF. Fantastic sour called FV13.

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Crazy busy show floor at EBF

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Firestone Walker booth at EBF. Wild Weisse Berliner Weisse made it worth the wait in the long ass line

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John Kimmich from The Alchemist, brewer of the illustrious Heady Topper

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The Bruery folks. Love that Sour in the Rye

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Samuel Adams dudes talking beer

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Captain Lawrence Brewing served a nice chocolate stout

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Nothing like a piping hot, sugar-coated waffle to top off a successful beer fest

UBN

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Buy Cantillon T-Shirts, Sweatshirts Online Directly from the Source

Gold Cantillon T-shirt

Yesterday I posted about an interesting new beer Brasserie Cantillon is currently working on: a spontaneously-fermented stout that will likely become either its 2014 or 2015 Zwanze beer. Once a year, Cantillon releases a special limited-release brew, and beer lovers the world over celebrate “Zwanze Day” at bars and other locales lucky enough to get some of it. (Check out my post on Zwanze Day 2012 for more information.)

While doing some research online, trying to dig up some details on this year’s Zwanze beer and the Zwanze Day 2013 date—to no avail—I found Cantillon’s new online store. In the past, if you wanted a Cantillon t-shirt or hoodie you had to visit the brewery in Belgium, attend some special event, like Zwanze Day, at which the shirts were being sold or find some random online retailer. Now you can purchase Cantillon t-shirts and sweatshirts online directly from Cantillon.

Cantillon Sweatshirt

The Cantillon tees and hoodies aren’t cheap though, and shipping to the United States is also pricey. To send a single $52.00 hooded sweatshirt from Cantillon to Boston, where I live, you need to pay roughly $32.50 in shipping fees. That’s a $85 hoodie. But $85 is still cheaper than a trip to Belgium and the Cantillon brewery. And one of these shirts would make a great gift for a Cantillon lover.

Unfortunately, the Cantillon Web shop is only selling t-shirts and sweatshirts at this point. It would be nice to see them offer glassware and other branded goodies in the future.

Visit Cantillon’s online store for more details.

UBN

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